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What We Do and How We Work

What We Do

Parish Councils are set up by Act of Parliament as the first tier of local Government.

We do not work for either District or County Councils and do not (and cannot) compete with them for any of the services they already offer.

However, there are many other things we can do, as given in specific Powers through Acts of Parliament. We also have a general power to do anything for the benefit of our community not covered by these rights (with limits on the amount we can spend and provided the benefit justifies the cost).

So, what does the council actually do? There are three main headings. 

Planning

We have a legal right to see copies of planning applications and to express our views. We do not make decisions on planning, this is done by the District Council through its planning committee and officers. Any comment we do make will have no impact unless it is a material consideration, in other words it relates to the legal framework for planning and the Local Development Framework

Maintenance

The Parish has many maintenance responsibilities that continue every year, these include street lighting, allotments, tree maintenance, dog litter bins and general maintenance. We review the spend on these and always aim to operate at the best cost to the Parish.

In 2019 the ownership of the Community Centre and the playing field was transferred to charitable incorporated organisation (CIO), this simplifies the role of Parish Council but more importantly it enables the Community Centre to secure grant funding, not available to the Parish Council, to ensure a sustainable future for the benefit of everyone.

New Initiatives

Anyone can suggest new things the Parish Council might do (contact the Parish Clerk or any Councillor). Before it can be discussed it must be added to the agenda of a Parish Council meeting, which gives everyone the chance to make their opinions known before the meeting. A recent example was the support (both financial and Councillors) for the Coddenham Covid-19 Response Group.

 

How We Work

Parish Councillors do not represent any political party or interest group — we make our own decisions although we do try to represent the interests of the Parish as a whole.

Anyone over 18 can stand as a Councillor. There are elections every four years. Often, we gain new Councillors when somebody has to leave, and we co-opt (elect by the remaining Parish Councillors) a volunteer to fill the vacancy. If you are interested, then contact the Parish Clerk.

The Parish Council must hold at least four meetings every year, we have ten, and one of these must be an annual meeting at which a Chairman and Responsible Financial Officer is appointed. There also must be an annual Parish Meeting for everyone in the Parish and which is a good opportunity to present what the Council has been up to and get your opinions on current issues.

Councillors are required (summonsed) to attend Parish meetings, they can be excused if something comes up but not on a regular basis. They must declare if they will benefit from any decision the Council makes and leave the meeting while the item is discussed.

All new Councillors are given training, run by the Suffolk Association of Local Councils (SALC), and a range of training is available for all Councillors at any time.

All meetings are open to the public, and the agenda is posted at least five days in advance on the three village noticeboards. Once the Parish Meeting has started, we can only discuss those items which have been published in advance as the Agenda for the meeting. Our purpose is to come to a clear decision which is supported by the majority of Councillors and is properly recorded in the Minutes of the meeting.

The Chairman’s role is to ensure these meetings run smoothly and to represent the Parish to outside bodies. He or she has no more power than any other Councillor, only an additional vote on decisions where the vote is tied.

There are a few other things the Parish Council must do as a whole, including:

  • Appoint a Parish Clerk (a professional who helps the Council do its work and stay within the rules but has no say in our decisions)
  • Have our Accounts audited (this is called an Internal Audit and simply means a check on our accounts by an independent Auditor)
  • Appoint a Responsible Financial Officer, in our case the Parish Clerk, who checks that our spending is in line with the Budget we have set for the year
  • Set a Budget for the year, the money that the Parish will require in order to do its work. This is called a Precept and is collected through the Council tax but is not controlled by District or County Councils

If you are interested in becoming a Parish Councillor please check the Council Vacancies link or contact the Clerk.